Birthdays and Anniversaries

If you know me, you know I love my birthday. It is quite a big day in my life and my year. In doing a b it of research for something totally different than writing this blog it has come to my attention that I am sitting on the 8 year mark for Minister of Mocha. Wow, that’s quite a while. I recall a comment made by one person in my sphere of influence as I began this little project. They asked if I would be able to keep writing week after week. They weren’t sure that I had the dedication or capacity. It would seem that we are doing ok so far!

None of it would be worth it without you, my Dear Reader. If I didn’t see you visiting the site each week, if I didn’t read the comments you make and send, if I didn’t see the re-posts, this would all just be a very strange, unlocked diary. Thanks for being here with me. Some of you have been here from the start, some may have just stumbled in more recently. Whoever you are, thank you from your MoM. It means so much that you read my weekly ramblings. Have a blessed day, and here’s to the years to come!

Whack-A-Mole

I’m guessing that you have all seen the carnival game called Whack-A-Mole. You get a padded mallet and as little mole heads pop up out of holes, you whack them to earn points. One head come up…Whack! Down it goes and then his buddy pops up from a different hole. It’s quite ridiculous and wonderful at the same time.

My weekend with Prison Fellowship was a bit of Whack-A-Mole.

For the past few weeks we have not been able to provide programming at one of our prisons because of COVID quarantine. We were excited to get back to work there on Saturday after a 7 week layoff. Then Friday morning we got an email letting us know that a different institution was having a break in programming until further notice.

Whack!

Life does not always show you all of the moles at once. Sometimes, you don’t even see any. But those little rascals are always somewhere. We’ve got to be ready to swing when we see them and wait when we don’t. Sooner or later that little guy is gonna…

–Rise Up!!

Blankets

I was watching TV this weekend. Being the natural born tightwad that I am, the heater in the house was off and I had some blankets over me to keep me warm. The blankets worked, but I’m sure they looked funny to anyone who might catch a glimpse of me. There’s the math right there: I felt fine, but the rest of the world thought I was a bit odd.

From a recovery perspective those blankets are the same as the masks I wear or the substances and behaviors I use to bring me comfort. I hear a speaker say this weekend that we can never find a substance that will give us the peace that can only come from God. The enemy will convince us that the substances are good, better even, but they simply don’t measure up.

Yesterday afternoon I had my oldest friend (in terms of how long we’ve been friends, I know people who are older!) come over to watch some NFL playoff games. He was coming over after church, so on my way out the door I did the unthinkable and turned on the heater as I left. When I got home the house was a toasty 68 degrees. Compared to the usual 58, this was a veritable sauna. My firend and I sat on the sofa and drank cold soda. He even asked for ice!

When things get bad, when you are wearing all the masks, invite your oldest friend over and turn on the heater. Just like the temperature, you too can…

–Rise Up!!

Going Out

This morning I was awakened by a tiny kiss on the cheek. I’m visiting my grandkids and that’s how it goes in the morning: litter patter of little 3 year old (“Going on Four, Papa”) feet then a kiss on the cheek. It’s the best!

Today we had planned on going out to breakfast as a fam. As I sit downstairs I can hear protests from the same sweet lips that so recently kissed my cheek. “I don’t wanna go, Mommmmmmmmmmy!”

Wow, that’s my eco very right there. Stuff I need to do, but just don’t want to. I’m happy one minute, then wailing and sobbing in the next. Now my daughter has her calmed down. She like my sponsor. She just listened then helped her figure out the problems. Now we’re good to go. Everything is set for us to…

—Rise Up!!

Investigating

My wife and I like to watch TV. It’s a typical evening for us to both be curled up and watching a show or a movie together. Topics will vary, but we both enjoy spies movies and shows. Watching the hero or heroes go through all of the things they do in order to solve the problem is fun for us. This morning in my reading I found myself in John 9. The Pharisees were grilling a man who had been blind about the miracle that Jesus performed in giving him sight. They kept asking the same sort of questions and trying to find the crack in the story. The crack in the story was the miracle: dude was blind, then dude could see. Their mistake was trying to explain a miracle with logic. Miracles cannot be defined by logic. Christ makes no sense! Still, people continue to investigate to see why Christians are wrong about this Jesus. We I need to spend less time as a denier and more time as a proclaimer! Looking for the Truth is a fantastic way to…

–Rise Up!!

Wow

New Year’s Day was a Sunday this year so I had a big weekend filled with lots of stuff. Our annual Sober New Year’s Eve Bash at CR was great, but took a ton of time to pull off. Another thing I gave time to was sports. (Hard to imagine, right?!?)

This weekend my teams had games that were played after some other important ones. That meant we had opportunities to do things, based on our own results. By the end of Sunday night I think I had a new ulcer and TMJ from clenching my jaw!

Seeing opportunities ahead is hard to avoid. I’m always playing out possibilities to see which direction a thing might go. Perhaps it’s like defensive driving, where you look for possible problems and try to be prepared in advance? Biblically we are taught not to worry, yet the thrill of sport derives in part from the worry. It’s wonderful to trounce an opponent, but I tend to remember the close ones longer.

This morning my ulcer is gone and my jaw is fine (well mostly fine, the Steelers waited a long time into the game to beat the hated Ravens). It’s a new day, and as I sit at a local restaurant waiting for a friend to join me for breakfast I see the annual Rose Parade on the TV.

What’s my point? Well, I suppose it’s that even the things I chase don’t last forever. There’s always a new “something” on the horizon. I need to manage my expectations and my emotions. Keeping an even keel might be the best way to…

—Rise Up!!

But Do You Really?

It’s Boxing Day! The wrapping paper is all in the trash cans. The food has been put in the fridge. The Premiere League starts again. It’s a great day. I love all of the stuff that surrounds the “Holiday Season”, but like everything, it all eventually comes to an end. We look forward to one thing, then as soon as it gets here it’s gone and we shift our focus to the next prize on the calendar. I got my Christmas Eve Eve service taken care of at Celebrate Recovery, now we have our New Year’s Eve Bash coming up.It can be hectic.

The anticipation is part of what drives us. Knowing that something fun is just ahead is a bit thrilling. We think about the excitement and pomp of a big event. Then it happens and poof, it’s gone. Nothing but memories.

Today I will be officiating a wedding. The happy couple has had the same rush of emotions with the holidays that the rest of us have had, but they get an extra boost on this Boxing Day. So what happens after the I Do’s? When the tree is down and the decorations are in boxes will you feel the same? We hear a lot of talk about the meaning or spirit of Christmas, but once we are on the other side do we try to maintain that spirit? The day after the wedding do we still feel the I do? What about three years down the line?

Wherever we are in our walk, I think it’s important to try to keep the joy of the next event alive. It’s good to know what is coming and to have a sense of excitement for it. But don’t forget the past. Looking back with fondness can help us move forward and…

–Rise Up!!

Late vs Never

Your MoM woke up early today to record a podcast. Not bad, getting things done in advance, right? I felt pretty good about the recording and even scheduled my next recording session for the Christmas Day Special. After that I went to breakfast with a friend. I de-boned and cut up 17.5 lbs of pork shoulder to make more sausage. I made a Christmas photo mug for someone. All in all I was pretty pleased with my level of output.

Then my wife reminded me that it was already one and I hadn’t posted my blog yet. Yikes!

Sometimes, no matter how much we plan, things fall through the cracks. We all make mistakes. I think it’s best to just put my hand up and say “My bad” then move on with life. They say better late than never. I suppose it might be true (except for maybe something like CPR). Anyhow, I’ll let you decide. Check the clock and then…

–Rise Up!

Hoping

This morning finds your MoM on the road. We are headed to a Prison Fellowship Hope Event where I will be speaking. It was cold when we left home and it’s even colder now that we are up in the mountains where the prison is located. Snow is on the ground, frost in the air, and we are tentatively scheduled to be outdoors!

I think about the journey that I’ve taken to get here today. There have been so many ups and downs in my walk. I’ve certainly seen struggles and valleys. While beautiful, life does provide a fair amount of difficulty.

Now I am almost 5 years into prison ministry and I am able to appreciate the hard things. I always knew that God promised to use the bad times for His glory; now I can see the delivery of those promises. In a few hours I’ll be telling a yard full of inmates how I stood in their place so many years ago. I can deliver the message of Hope that strangers brought to me all those years ago.

Watching the sun rise encourages me to do the same thing. I’m driving up the mountain so that I can help others to…

—Rise Up!!

Rise up, indeed!

Hurry up and Wait

As you might already know, I spend a lot of time in prisons. One thing you can count on in every prison I’ve every encountered is that time and schedule are a fluid thing. Let me re-state that, for inmates, schedule is fluid. When the “prison” makes a decision that something needs to happen, it happens. Think about being a small child and making a plan then your folks tell you that instead of watching your Saturday morning cartoons you are going to visit Auntie Edna in the hospital. Not nearly as much fun, but honestly, what choice do you have?!?

We started a brand new Prison Fellowship Academy this weekend. It was our first time in this particular institution, so we were trying to learn the practices and procedures, the whys and wherefores of the place. I frequently tell people that expectations are premeditated resentments, and this was definitely a case in point.

Both days that we were there we had scheduling snags that required us to just shift gears and wait. On the first night we had to wait for them to clear the count before we could release our class. On Day 2 they were experiencing fog at the institution so they had to perform a special count. We sat in the chapel (our “classroom”) for almost a full hour before any students arrived. Normally a one hour wait would invite everyone to reach for a screen, but we aren’t allowed to bring anything like that inside, so we just sat and chatted. Once the men arrived we learned that we would need to release them ten minutes before we planned in order for them to be back in their housing units before the normal count. Out of a two hour class time, we got about 50 minutes.

The awesome thing is that as Bev and I drove away from the prison we couldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was to be with this new group of men. There was no talk at all about the issues and challenges that arose, only excitement at beginning a new class. Sometimes it’s necessary to hurry up and wait in order to…

–Rise Up!!